When planning a summer holiday, most people tend to stick to the age-old formula of sun, sea and sand, and were it not for the fact that I have friends who live in the Alps, I too might have been heading off to the south of France, Spain or, most likely, Scotland! But as the plane fare from London to Geneva was only slightly more than a train fare to Edinburgh and the journey time roughly equivalent, the Alps won hands down.
My friends Chris and Hannah run the gorgeous 4 star Chalet la Charme in St Gervais, a pretty little spa town which sits in the heart of the Mont Blanc Massif, an hour’s drive from Geneva. With St Gervais and Les Contamines ski areas on the doorstep and Megeve and Chamonix within easy reach, it goes without saying that it’s a fantastic destination for winter sports. But it’s also a great place to visit in the summer, whether you’re looking for an action-packed getaway, a relaxing break in the sun or a combination of both.
The chalet itself perches just above the town centre and offers stunning, unobstructed views of the Chaine d’Aravis. It can accommodate up to 10 people in 5 luxury en-suite bedrooms, on either a half board, B&B or self catered basis. It has a large, comfortable living room with a wood burning fire which is perfect for relaxing in on cold winter evenings, and there’s a great terrace for summer barbeques which gets the sun until it drops behind the mountains, creating the most magnificent sunsets.
Only 20 minutes drive from St Gervais is the adrenaline sports mecca of Chamonix. It’s just as great a place to visit in summer as it is in winter whether you want to partake in one of the many activities on offer, or would rather just wander round the town centre, stopping off at one of the many bars and restaurants to indulge in some local specialities, take in the stunning views and watch a very different world go by.
Summer is peak season in Chamonix and interspersed among the tourists are countless sickeningly fit looking men and women dressed in the latest technical clothing and laden down with ropes and other climbing paraphernalia, the quantity of which is apparently directly proportional to their level of expertise, or so they’d like you to believe!
People watching in Chamonix incites both adulation and amusement. While the physiques and rugged appearance of many may attest to their ability to negotiate the treacherous terrain which looms above, there does seem to be a certain degree of posturing which is entertaining, if not a little irritating. But perhaps that just betrays a hint of jealousy resulting from the aching limbs that we were experiencing after our relatively straightforward venture into the mountains!
We may not have summited Mont Blanc or scaled the Grand Dru, but hiking up alongside the Glacier des Bossons was breathtaking (literally as well as metaphorically) and there wasn’t even a need for a rope or ice axe, even if we did wish we’d taken one (or better still, two) for effect!
Other activities available for us mere (albeit plucky) mortals are rafting, mountain biking and paragliding, but we chose to focus more on the alternative alpine pursuits of ultimate cheese consumption and extreme wine tasting which we were easily able to justify after our alpine ascent!
After conquering Chamonix, we moved on to Megeve, a 10 minute drive from St Gervais, for more of the same. The inviting restaurant terraces which line the pretty streets of the old town made it the perfect location to push ourselves to the limits of our waistbands.
After five fantastic days in and around St Gervais I’d experienced everything that’s great about a beach holiday, and more. We’d chilled in the sun, explored beautiful old towns and (over) indulged in local food and wines, but we’d also had the extra dimension of some of the most stunning and awe-inspiring scenery in the world and the immense adventure playground that it plays host to.
And after stopping off at the beautiful town of Annecy en route to the airport, with its gorgeous lake complete with sandy beaches, and more ice cream parlours per square mile than I’ve ever encountered, the only ingredient that was still missing was the sea. But let’s face it, who likes salt water anyway?!
Given a choice between the beach and the mountains, I’ll take the mountains every time. So, while I’d much rather they still lived closer to home, sometimes it does pay to have friends in high places!
*Massive thanks to Hannah and Chris for being such fantastic hosts and giving me the most amazing holiday!
Click here to find out more about the area and book your own summer or winter break at Chalet la Charme.